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Actor Anthony Natale featured at Helen Keller Lecture series

When the AIDB Ensemble performed at the dedication of the Helen Keller statue in Statuary Hall in Washington D.C., they brought tears to the eyes of all those in attendance.

And, there were misty eyes throughout the Claudia Crosby Theater Tuesday morning when the ensemble performed several patriot songs to open the 15th Annual Helen Keller Lecture Series.

Troy University First Lady Janice Hawkins said she was honored and thrilled to have been a part of the ceremony in Washington.

“There was not a dry eye at Statuary Hall when the AIDB Ensemble performed,” Hawkins said. “These young people are champions of all Alabamians, not just those with special needs. We are honored to have them perform for the Helen Keller Lecture Series at Troy University.”

Each year, the Helen Keller Lecture Series features a guest speaker who has overcome considerable physical obstacles and serves as an inspiration for others with disabilities.

In introducing Anthony Natale, the guest speaker for the 2010 lecture series, Hawkins said, Natale, who is hearing impaired, is known to movie goers as the man in the elevator during the pivotal scene from “Jerry Maguire,” singing “You complete me,” to his partner.

Natale also starred as the adult son in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” the 1995 film featuring Richard Dreyfuss about the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students.

Speaking through an interpreter, Natale said today’s world offers many opportunities that weren’t available to him as a young boy.

“Now, there are many ways to meet people,” he said. “There are many ways to access your world, to get connected. It is important to be connected.”

Natale said technology has made it possible for those who are hearing and visually impaired to be connected to the world around them and to worlds beyond.

“We have access to the world,” he said. “The more we are involved, the more opportunities we have to make a positive impact.”

As an actor, Natale said many opportunities have come his way.

“It is amazing what the arts can do for you,” he said.

Through the arts, Natale has excelled.

His film credits include appearances in “Dogma,” “Sorority Boys,” “City of Angles” and “Children of a Lesser God.”

Natale also has appeared in television programs such as Lifetime’s, “Any Day Now,” ABC’s “Once and Again” and “Ellen,” Spelling Production’s “7th Heaven,” and CBS’ “Beauty and the Beast.” He has numerous stage credits, including the lead roles in “Tuc’s Story,” performed at the Sundance Playwright Theater in Utah and “Brilliant Traces,” performed at the Deaf West Theater in Hollywood.

Natale is also the star of “How to Talk to a Person Who Can’t Hear,’ the first video made to teach sign language to the general public. The video has received awards from the U.S. International Film & Video Festival as well as a Young Artist Award.

Natale is a sign language translator and consultant. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in film production from California State University Northridge.

The Helen Keller Lecture Series pays tribute to Keller who was born in Tuscumbia. She had an acute illness that left her deaf and blind at 19 months old. No way could be found to educate her until her seventh year when she began her special education in reading and writing with Annie Sullivan.

Helen Keller quickly learned to read by the Braille system and to write by means of a specially constructed typewriter. In 1890, she learned to speak after only one month of study. Ten years later, she was able to enter Radcliffe College, where she graduated with honors in 1904.

She went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities. Her legacy lives on through generations of deaf and blind children and adults at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.